Monday, 5 May 2008

Cliff Terrace - TDC blowing their own trumpet

The latest edition of Margate Newsletter from Margate Renewal hails the work going on at Cliff Terrace to be an "Eyesore Finally to be Transformed".
"Work is finally underway to transform a beautiful group of empty buildings in Cliftonville, after intervention from Thanet District Council."
Quite. Yes, the buildings are now going to be transformed to be 100% residential flats, which has meant the loss of the original shops and shopfronts on the groundfloor level. This was contrary to the advice of a conservation officer at TDC. So Cliftonville will add a few more flats to it's already bulging roster.

Let's also remind TDC that they did not apply for 14 and 15 Cliff Terrace (the end ornate building) to be listed or protected. That was down to a local resident. TDC threatened a Compulsory Purchase Order and then found a developer to turn the whole site into residential. In so doing there has been the loss of original shops and shopfronts and the creation of flats that sit directly at street level on a busy corner. Now, aren't these exactly the type of housing units that are difficult to shift in this area?

There was no need for the building to have fallen into such a state of disrepair had TDC acted earlier. The creation of more flats, as residents of Cliftonville will know very well, does not always bring a better environment.

So, why did TDC need to push through the plan for 14 and 15 Cliff Terrace to be converted to residential? The listed building status gave them enough clout to limit residential flats to the upper floors.

Here's the officer's formal complaint:
Brian White – Head of Development Services
Thanet District Council
Cecil Street

21st December 2007

Dear Mr. White,

L/TH/07/1527 – 14-15 Cliff Terrace, Margate

The above building was listed on 15th October 2007. This necessitated the submission of a listed building consent following the previous granting of planning consent for the conversion of the building in to flats.

The building is a purpose built shop with a tearoom and letting rooms over. The list description notes the remains of the historic shopfront.

In common with the planning application, the listed building consent application proposed alterations to the ground floor to facilitate a domestic conversion. Whilst such an alteration might be acceptable in a building that was not listed, it departed from the original form of the building in a manner that would be detrimental to its historic character. Any alteration to this building should serve to re-enforce that character – as stated in policy HE1 of the Thanet Local plan.

I gave my advice on this application to the case officer by e-mail on 7th December. Upon discussion, the case officer told me that she did not intend to follow this advice. When questioned as to why this might be the case, she responded that she was the planning officer.

I am employed by both this Authority and English Heritage to advise on matters concerning the historic built environment, especially listed buildings. I am a chartered Architect and a full member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

In a situation such as this, one affecting the character of a listed building, my advice should be the paramount consideration in the determination of the application. There is no point in employing me if my opinion, on matters that I am uniquely qualified to opine, is ignored.

On the face of it, it would appear that the decision to grant this consent was the unilateral decision of the planning officer. This being the case I wish to bring a formal complaint against the case officer for professional misconduct.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Dermott IHBC RIBA


  1. Why on earth do they employ a heritage officer when they don't take his advice? The same attitude at planning level appears to have done for the Marina Restaurant here in Ramsgate back in January, and countless other national Thanetian treasures over the years. It's enough to make you wonder if the planning department isn't in cahoots with the developers... ooh, hush my mouth!

  2. I can recall an inquisitive person asking Mr Dermott had he been asked for his view on the sale/disposal of Albion House Ramsgate. His stunning reply of no he had not, sums up the top down attitude of TDC.